I have always believed that when you look back on your life, you'll remember moments. Moments in time where you smiled, where you laughed, where you just felt pure and utter joy.
For me, many of those moments happened when my children were very young. And these moments will forever be imprinted on my mind and in my heart.
For eight and a half years, I was a stay-at-home mother. My husband was the sole income earner for our family – taking on the financial responsibilities whilst I stayed at home to raise our three children.
I have unforgettable memories with each of my children and also of them together. I remember their first words, their first solid meals, teaching them how to read, laughing at their silliness, cuddling and kissing them, taking them out to the library, to playgroup.
I remember the time I took them all to the park and I joined them in doing cartwheels on the grass. To this day, we still laugh about it.
There were times when I questioned my own self-worth – should I have finished my degree instead of deciding to stay home? Should I be working instead and assisting my husband financially?
Receiving judgment from people was quite hurtful, at times. Sometimes this judgment made it hard to remember that reading to my children, maintaining a consistent sleep routine, helping them to have a balanced diet, encouraging their emotional, mental and physical development, rushing them to appointments – had immeasurable value.
Throughout those eight and a half years, I instinctively knew each of my children had delays with their speech and language. As a result, they were diagnosed with a specific language impairment (SLI) very early on and spent several years at a Language Development school. I was later told, by specialists, that my children were very lucky to have me as their mum as early detection had been the key to their success. Watching them become the confident and competent children I always knew they were, has been one of my most rewarding experiences as their mum.
When my youngest daughter was still keeping me on my toes at school drop off time, I had a meaningful conversation with my eldest daughter's teacher. She said to me, "I was a stay-at-home mum too. My children are all adults now. That was the best time of my life. I have never regretted it. What you are doing will be worthwhile."
And with that, I got back into my car, young children in tow, with a smile on my face. Despite the struggles for my children to listen sometimes, the repetitiveness of my days, the loneliness and physical exhaustion, our financial situation, I remembered that what I was doing for our children mattered and it was shaping them into the people they would become.
I am now a full-time working parent, together with my husband. All three of our children are in full-time school.
Sometimes, I feel disappointed that I can't always be there to watch them receiving their merit certificate. Or that I can't pick them up from school and ask them how their day was as we walk to the car. I feel sadness that for so long I was able to have a more active presence in their life but that has changed.
But much like any change, I've come to realise that these changes have come with many benefits too. They have brought my children and their grandparents closer together.
Also, after giving so many years to my children, I am doing something for me. And I deserve to.
My work desk is filled with reminders of my children. A certificate from my eldest for being a "great Mum". A Mother's Day gift from my middle daughter that says "I love my Mum because she cooks yummy food for me!" A homemade photo frame from my youngest that she's drawn of me as a mermaid.
I now have the privilege of knowing that when I finish a work day, I might have a school concert to attend to. That I have children waiting at home to ask how my day was. I have a family who appreciates what I am doing to help support us.
I may not have as much time with my children as before, but it means that the time I do have with them is truly cherished.
The best decision for your family
Every family makes decisions that are right for them – whether it is to stay home or return to work, to breast feed or to formula feed – and whichever one it is, will be the best one for your family.
Regardless of what decisions you make for your family, the important thing is that your children know they are loved, safe and protected.
And I know my three children are - in the way they hold me tightly, in the way they treat others with compassion, in the way they show themselves kindness as they learn to navigate their own lives.